Juliette Bains: Sad time at the bar as pubs need to pull younger punters

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Admittedly, it’s been a quite a while since I have set foot inside a pub.

Bars, yes (sometimes a bit too regularly), but pubs, not so much.

It’s not a matter of social snobbery on my part, more the fact it’s just not something that any of my friends or I have really done since we were teenagers.

But breaking with tradition, this week I popped into one of my Leeds locals and was both surprised and saddened by what I found.

It wasn’t so much the stench of stale beer or the dingy decor, it was the fact that, by quite a considerable distance, I was the youngest person in there.

One of my first jobs was in a pub, and I thought I knew what to expect on a Saturday night - young and old out for a few bevvies before a night on the tiles, with a bit of a buzz about finally making it to the weekend.

But sadly this pub was almost exclusively populated by older punters, quietly supping away without much chatter and just a low, background murmur to block out the ticking of the clock.

It all left me asking myself, what happened to the days of young people nipping to the pub for a drink with their mates?

Is it not seen as cool anymore to spend £3 on a glass of wine with some nice bartender banter?

Are people instead feeling the need to spend £8 on a fancy cocktail served by over-styled bartenders, probably wearing trouser braces with an overwhelming amount of facial hair?

Sadly, I think that may well be the case.

The fact is, there’s not as many thriving independent pubs left in Leeds anymore, and those that are left seem to be swimming against the tide.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bar, but don’t necessarily want to see a city dominated by them, especially at the expense of every decent pub.

Pubs may not be the place to be any more, but they do offer something that bars don’t - a chance to chat.

With most bars in town playing music at ear-splitting volumes, they may be great for a dance and a drink, but aren’t really suitable for a sit down and a catch up.

Unfortunately pubs have faced something of an uphill battle due to high taxes and rents, and couple that with dwindling numbers of younger clientele and it’s inevitable that more are going to vanish.

It’s now so bad that the supporters of the Campaign for Real Ale are fighting to save any pubs left with character and claims the number of surviving Yorkshire pubs with a typical interior worth preserving now stands at just 119.

That’s just two per cent of the county’s rapidly diminishing stock of pubs.

Brewery bosses have rolled out various ideas to try and stave off the decline, including trendy gastropub rebrands and the like, but alarm bells were ringing when I read about the latest step this week.

In a bid to cut staff costs, a new ipub has been launched in Wales, allowing customers to serve and order their own drinks via a computer, without the need to converse with a single human being.

It’s a strange answer to the problem pubs are facing and one which defeats the entire purpose of going to a pub in the first place.

Surely the chit-chat between staff and punters, and the social aspect are key parts of what makes a pub a pub?

Take away the novelty value of pouring your own pint and you’re left with what is surely a soulless shell of a business.

It’s a concept that isn’t the answer to struggling pub owners’ prayers, and it’s one I hope we don’t see in Leeds, or it may well be last orders for the city’s remaining pubs.

Animal magic as visit stirs up some Yorkshire pride

I feel almost ashamed saying it, but despite living in Yorkshire for almost a decade now, there are still plenty of places I haven’t got round to visiting yet.

In my defence, you lot have a fair few decent tourist attractions here - many of them right on your doorstep.

Last week however, I finally got to tick the Yorkshire Wildlife Park off the list.

Strangely I’ve only met a handful of Yorkshire people who have been there, but those who have rave about it.

And I can see why.

From Victor the polar bear to an adorable family of giraffes, it was all pretty impressive.

There’s not many places in the UK that will also let you walk around with some wallabies and get so close to lions and tigers.

It’s amazing that Yorkshire is home to such an attraction and it’s safe to say I’ll definitely be returning soon.

I always think we’re lucky to have somewhere like Tropical World in Leeds, and although YWP is obviously on a much bigger scale, it still stirs up the same feeling of pride to have something so awesome right here in Yorkshire.

It’s now made me more determined than ever to continue working my way through my little list.

With places like Flamingo Land, the Thackray Museum and Brimham Rocks still to go, I’m hoping Yorkshire will continue to keep me busy for decades to come.

Take a seat because the ‘boys’ are back in town

It’s that time of year again.

It’s time for the big event at Millennium Square that arrives after all the Light Night equipment is packed up, but before the Christkindelmarkt comes to town.

Yup, it’s time for the Ladyboys of Bangkok show.

You’ll probably have seen the posters dotted around town, which tend to make many people curious without them actually understanding what the show involves.

But it’s basically a cabaret show where you sit at tables underneath the huge marquee and bop-along to some cheesy tunes while the cast dance and lip synch in some impressive, probably sparkly ensembles.

You can bet that there’ll be some Gaga, Katy Perry and Madonna, and I always enjoy going along with some girl mates.

Last night was the third year I’d been and it was just as much fun as the first time.

If you haven’t seen it, I’d say it’s worth a visit.

BE CURIOUS: One of the events at a previous Be Curious festival.

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